Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Nov 2008

MNF: Steelers Quirky Red Zone Efficiency

This week's Monday Night Football feature for ESPN analyzes the Steelers' red zone offense and whether it's likely to remain much better than their total offensive DVOA.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 01 Nov 2008

13 comments, Last at 04 Nov 2008, 11:53am by MurphyZero


by Jerry :: Sat, 11/01/2008 - 5:42pm


You talk about year-to-year consistency and correlations, which tell us something. How about first half of the season-second half of the season correlation?

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sat, 11/01/2008 - 7:04pm


Also, The Chargers might want to thank Antonio Gates as well as Tomlinson.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by el plaga :: Sat, 11/01/2008 - 8:37pm

its the cincinnatie bengals defense not the cleveland defense. pittsburgh only scored 10 points against the browns but they won.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Sun, 11/02/2008 - 12:06am

Jerry-for 1/2 season correlations check out this site:


by Jerry :: Sun, 11/02/2008 - 1:01am

Thanks. The question that leaps to mind is: What statistics correlate first half/second half but not year-to-year, and vice verse? And how do various flavors of DVOA fit?

by IsraelP (not verified) :: Sun, 11/02/2008 - 7:23am

Their 155 points are 18th in the league, and their offense overall is ranked 24th by DVOA, likely owing to the fact that 76 of those 155 points were scored against the pitiful defenses of the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans.

I think you mean the Bengals and the Texans.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Sun, 11/02/2008 - 10:57am

Yes, these articles often seem to have at least one error like this. (Is someone keeping advanced stats on adjusted article error rate?) How do we know they aren't making all sorts of errors in the calculations we can't check?

by Mystyc :: Mon, 11/03/2008 - 2:14pm

You need a better term than just "the offensive version of bend-but-don't-break." It's more like a gravity well -- the closer they get to the goal line, the faster they approach it.

by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 11/03/2008 - 6:24pm

The title doesn't follow article's entire point. If red zone efficiency is indeed non-predictive of itself, then the title should be "Steelers Offense Worked Better in the Red Zone" not "Works Better.."

Doesn't DVOA or DPAR itself overweight redzone performance? After all, that's where expected points climb steeply? Does that suggest DVOA is overfit to the past?

But I agree with your findings. Essentially, red zone performance is indistinguishable form a random subset of overall performance. In other words, if you isolated offensive performance in any 20-yd chunk of the field you would see the same sub-sample variation you see between red-zone performance and overall performance.

by FourteenDays :: Mon, 11/03/2008 - 8:28pm

This is interesting stuff, but there's one question I wish the article would answer. When it mentions that teams with DVOA overperformance in the red zone tend to see the overperformance vanish in the next season, but the number of wins remains the same, does the overperformance vanish because the red zone DVOA moves down, or because the overall DVOA moves up?

This is, of course, an awfully tricky question to answer, because there are so many other variables. Perhaps the simplest way would be a matched pairs study -- for each team in the overperforming sample, find a team with a similar DVOA and number of wins which didn't overperform in the red zone, and see how they did the next year.

by DJ Any Reason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/03/2008 - 10:22pm

Is it possible that the Steelers perform so much better in the red zone because the Steelers have a high variability of offensive performance, and they don't get to the red zone when they're not playing well? Watching them this whole season, there's definitely times the offense clicks and times that it doesn't. And they don't seem to move down the field much when its not clicking, so those times probably aren't measured into their red zone offensive efficiency.

by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 11/04/2008 - 10:09am

Steeler fans have been complaining all season about the tendency toward 5-7 step drops and slow developing pass plays which play into both the o-line's weaknesses in pass protection and the quarterback's tendency to hold on to the ball too long.

Perhaps the Steelers success in the redzone is not entirely random, considering that when you shorten the field to that degree, you are pretty much eliminating those slow developing pass plays, because receivers don't have that far to go? Perhaps the field position forces the Steeler offense away from the kind of play calls that have frequently put them into bad situations on other parts of the field and pushes them towards the kind of short quick routes that allow them to get the ball away before the QB gets sacked?

by MurphyZero :: Tue, 11/04/2008 - 11:53am

A very interesting comment. You'd almost need to have the coaches tape to verify it because normal broadcast shows so little of the receiver routes. It may very well be that the route combos that the Steelers are running outside the red zone are making it difficult for Ben to identify the best throws and he's holding on to the ball way too long. Their offense does need some work, particularly in getting more quick passes.

Leftwich does a better job of geting rid of the ball than Roethlisberger, even though that means throwing into tighter coverage...higher chance of interception, lower chance of sack and fumble. Last night, Leftwich's way worked better against the Washington D.